Sometimes a small shift seemed to change everything and the effect was simple, like night turning into day. Some turn of direction or a modulation of frequencies. What was revealed then, what new view opened up? But it wasn’t quite a question of revelation, more like a possibility actuated and so trailing new possibilities behind it. You’d turn your head and see something you’d sensed all along, or it would see you. Those changes made a gentle mockery of you when you put yourself in a position to receive them.
Sometimes things came together when you needed it, even when things seemed to go wrong. Sometimes things went wrong in order to come together. There was a current beneath acts and events that could carry you or turn against you. When it found you, or when you found it, and it brought you towards other people, you called it grace, in the old style.
Luck came only through playing. So how could you start playing, how emerge from your refusal to play, from your grey timid life? How else but by a stroke of luck that carried you with it? What game were you playing, what game was playing you? What did you find as you played, as you renewed your search for luck? You crossed a line and found something that was searching for itself. When you got lucky luck played its game with you, without you. You got lucky: you were ruled by a game that didn’t know its own rules. You got lucky: your luck ran through your fingers…
An uncanny empathy broods above these zoomorphs, and invests them with more of their creator’s soul than all but a few human characters receive. So a child, cowed and bored by the world of human adults, makes companions of pets and toy animals.
— From John Updike’s introduction to Schocken Books’ Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories
Something went wrong when I turned up. What was supposed to happen seamlessly happened like a break. What usually happened didn’t happen and that was what defined it: as something that failed to happen, that broke apart instead of coming together, or broke apart the instant it came together. I turned up too suddenly, or you hadn’t been prepared well enough, eighteen years later I still know as much as you do, that’s to say nothing. We’re reduced to a series of empty images: the foundations hadn’t been laid, the ground was barren and cracked. Nothing could be built from my words, the seeds wouldn’t take root. Words, words, words, that’s all we became. I botched up the experiment, like Frankenstein, or the guy in The Fly.
My arrival in the year it all went wrong opened up a space between us, between us and the world, between everything. I arrived in the manner of a rupture, a break that made all your previous breaks, not in themselves dangerous, look like child’s play. I didn’t grow out of you in the slow natural way, wasn’t that the problem? I made you cryptic, though I was sent to make you straight, and you in turn made me cryptic. We still don’t know what we’re talking about, we don’t know anything. My words didn’t take root, didn’t root you to the world. So we both became my words, each in our own warring way. Do we even know who’s who? Do we even know whose words these are? Yet there’s something to be said for that break after all, we have to think this because we can’t think otherwise, we have to think this to stay sane, there’s something to be said for breaking open, being broken open, leaving yourself open, being left open, like an open wound.
A blond boy wearing thick glasses just looked in my window, or rather at my window, for he used it as a mirror in which he confirmed his coiffure and his expression. I was afraid he might catch sight of me behind his reflection but he quit his work unaware of the self-centred host of this sunken room, and I did not have to confront him in the midst of his vanity.
— Leonard Cohen, ‘The Window’
The dim church and the odor of incense seemed to him to be quite wonderful, a sort of darkened sachet for pain. Here one shook out the garments of sin and if they could not be cleansed at least they could be perfumed. He’d heard that chorus girls did something like this – used cologne water when they hadn’t time for the next curtain.
The high ceiling looked like an inverted mold to Skirl, a place where formless, terrible and ugly things were made beautiful. He crossed himself thinking about this and his trouble, looking around a little furtively with his yellow eyes set in pale form wrinkles, like new flowers.
He could see the altar far away at the end of his supplication, its two incense burners sending up slow thin threads of scented smoke on either side of the scarlet figure of the priest.
Skirl Pavel looked into this distance, thinking how much this altar resembled a dressing table – a dressing table for the soul – and that scarlet priest like a lovely red autumn leaf blown up against that polished thing of wood, with its great open Bible. He moved like a leaf too, here, there, as if he were trying to play a song and couldn’t find the tune.
— Djuna Barnes, ‘Renunciation’
Sometimes we feel we haven’t even begun to understand ourselves, to understand anything, to think, to be. We must become aware of the urgency of all this, we agree, we must become our own most merciless critics so we can begin to understand, be, think! But most of the time we’re lazy, we agree – in fact beyond lazy! Most of the time we’ve convinced each other, like silent partners in a crime, that the best way to spend time is to waste it.
‘God’, said Angela of Foligno, ‘gave his son, whom he loved, a poverty such that there never was, and there never will be a poor man equal to him. And yet he had Being as property. He possessed substance and it was his such that that belonging is above human speech. And yet God made him poor, as if the substance was not his’.
That the immovable substance should not be, even for God, sovereign satisfaction, that destitution and death should be the beyond required for the glory of He *who is* eternal beatitude – as well as for that of whomever possesses in his or her way the illusory attribute of substance –, a truth as ruinous could not be nakedly accessible for the saint. Still: starting from an ecstatic vision, it can’t be avoided.
— Bataille, Guilty (tr. Kendall)